Once upon a time, Hudson knew exactly what her future looked like. Then a betrayal changed her life, and knocked her dreams to the ground. Now she’s a girl who doesn’t believe in second chances… a girl who stays under the radar by baking cupcakes at her mom’s diner and obsessing over what might have been.
So when things start looking up and she has another shot at her dreams, Hudson is equal parts hopeful and terrified. Of course, this is also the moment a cute, sweet guy walks into her life…and starts serving up some seriously mixed signals. She’s got a lot on her plate, and for a girl who’s been burned before, risking it all is easier said than done.
It’s time for Hudson to ask herself what she really wants, and how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it. Because in a place where opportunities are fleeting, she knows this chance may very well be her last…
I went into Bittersweet fairly blind. My brain registered “Sarah Ockler” and “cupcakes,” and then promptly exploded in happiness.
Bittersweet was a fast, fun read as sugary sweet as the cupcake creations Hudson cooks up. Though Ockler’s signature teenage angst and family dysfunction played a major role, the book was surprisingly unencumbered. This was a new, more relaxed side of Ockler. There were no huge deaths, no breakdowns, no screaming fights or major blowups – just life. It was real, it was simple, it was lovely.
The romance in Bittersweet was likewise uncharacteristic yet wonderful. The relationship was not immediate, but rather slowly developing, often veering wildly off course. It was, in other words, authentically high school. While I know many couples who are completely lovey-dovey, I also know that they did not get there in one step. The road was full of potholes and surprise curves and a whole lot of drama. I love that Ockler was able to capture this journey.
What astounds me about Ockler’s writing is that each book and its heroine are one-hundred percent unique. Take Hudson for example. Her father cheated on and left her mom, giving her more than enough reason to act out. Instead of going wild, however, Hudson takes comfort in baking, building a highly successful cupcake business. She also refocuses her life from figure skating to holding what is left of her family together, stepping in as a quasi-mother for her little brother and sharing financial responsibilities with her mom. Externally, Hudson is an incredibly strong young woman who seems to be firmly rooted in the present. Internally, however, she is a hopeless dreamer who wants more than a diner job in a forgotten town. This internal conflict between being who she is and who she wants to be provided a great impetus for the plot and made Hudson all the more relatable as a narrator.
Of course, that is not to say that Hudson was perfect. To be honest, she flummoxed me. At times, I felt we were perfectly in sync. And then she would go do or say (or, should I say, not do or say) something, and I would be thrown. More than a few times I wanted to smack her. “Come on,” I wanted to yell. “Don’t just stand there. You are allowed to react.” Had I been in control, Bittersweet would have panned out quite differently. But, as that is not the case, I will admit that the ending was quite satisfactory. I was proud of the person Hudson had become and understood her character, even if I did not fully agree with all of her choices.
Truly, Bittersweet is not a book about ice skating or hockey, divorce or cupcakes; it is a book about life and learning to appreciate it – no “what ifs,” no regrets. This alone is reason to pick up a copy. Whether one is looking for more from Ockler or simply a great contemporary read, Bittersweet will not disappoint.